My Long and Complicated History with Dynamo Stuff

I discovered dynamo power in 2009 while working at a bike shop in Indianapolis. One of our customers brought in his dialed-in Surly Long Haul Trucker, complete with SON Dynamo front hub. It was a basic touring setup, and he just had a light connected to it. A few months later I met a guy who had all kinds of wires sticking out of his handlebar bag. I asked him about it, and he told me of his device, a Busch & Muller “e-werk”. Fast forward to 2010 and I bought my own hub, had my shop buddy lace it to a Salsa Delgado rim, and I was in business. I bought a B & M headlight and an e-werk. I was set!

I used this setup for a couple years with no problems. But fast forward again to July of 2013, two days before I’m scheduled to head out on a week-long self supported tour. I’m transferring some of my equipment from my commuter to my touring bike, and a wire just pulls out of the e-werk. Knowing that no local shops stock this, and that there isn’t time to send it in and get a replacement, I pull the thing apart in hopes of soldering the wires together to make something work. No luck.

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When I returned from my trip, I contacted Peter White Cycles, from whom I had initially purchased my items. Linda White and I talked about it and, even though long out of warranty, she said another customer had had a similar problem with the e-werk and she was willing to replace it for free. Upon further discussion, we decided the ideal product would be B&M’s new USB-werk, since I would only be charging USB devices. So, she sent me a USB werk.

Following manufacturer instructions exactly, I wired up the USB-werk when it arrived with a dynamo light that I also ordered. Wanting to test it out, I put my wheel on my bike in the work stand, plugged in my Garmin 705, and spun the wheel. I was pretty excited to see it charging the 705. I gave it a few more spins, then decided to unplug the Garmin and see if I could charge my Niterider Lumina 250 headlight. Yup, it was awesome…the light was charging.

But then….the light got really really warm after I removed it (again, after only spinning the wheel a couple times to see if there was current). The light continued to get warm, then it didn’t work. It wouldn’t turn on, wouldn’t charge, nothing. Fried.

Then, after my next ride, I plugged my Garmin into my PC. It would not connect. I worked with Garmin support, various online forums, nothing. The device would still track mileage, speed, etc. but it absolutely would not communicate with my PC (or another PC).

I sent the USB werk back to Peter White Cycles for testing. They couldn’t find anything wrong with it. So they sent it back to B&M in Germany, who also couldn’t find anything wrong with it.

After months of dealing with this, I had great hesitation in attempting to charge anything from my bike. I discovered the “Revolution” in an ad in Adventure Cyclist magazine. Looking at this product gave me hope, but I really couldn’t afford to fry any more devices. This is when I sent an email to Sinewave Cycles, telling them about my plight and my fear of dynamo charging. I was pretty surprised when I received a reply from David Dean, the inventor of the Revolution and the owner of Sinewave! He was genuinely curious about my situation, especially since he’s an electrical engineer as well as a cyclist.

We stayed in contact over the next few months while I went back and forth with PWC. During this time Peter and Linda both said that they were sympathetic to my situation, but since they couldn’t duplicate the problem there wasn’t really anything they could do. I had lucked out that Garmin replaced my 705 for no charge (it had just been replaced due to a cracked screen and was still under warranty), but I didn’t believe my usb-werk was working properly, and I had a rather expensive headlight to replace. I waited and waited, periodically calling and checking on the status of the stuff that was to be sent back from Germany, and back from NH.

Just as I was about to purchase a Revolution and a replacement headlight, eating the cost on all this, I checked with Linda and she said all of my stuff had been lost in shipping from Germany. She was going to send me a brand new usb-werk and a new usb-rechargeable headlight. What? Hooray!

At this point, however, I had built a bit of a rapport with David at Sinewave. I emailed him again with an update and to apologize for not having an opportunity to try the Revolution. I couldn’t justify spending the money on something that would do the same job. A couple days later David made me an offer: he’d give me a discount on a revolution if I would write a comparative review of it vs. the usb- werk. I gave it some thought and eventually agreed.

So that’s my full disclosure story. Yes, I received a discount to write a review of the Revolution, but I also received exceptional service from PWC, and even some free stuff. Of course you may disagree, but I believe this is fair enough that it didn’t skew my perspective of either product. Both are solid, but there’s just no calling B&M directly, at least in the U.S. I should also say that I have received an email from David in response to my review, asking me how I think they could do better. Again, awesome customer service from someone who really want ps his product to work for his customers.

Now I happily use both products, using the, on my commuter, touring bike, and my tandem. You can’t go wrong with either one, but I strongly recommend the external battery option as a safeguard.

Happy trails!
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